Antidotes All the Way Down?

Theoria 19 (2004) 259–69.


Dispositions are related to conditionals. Typically a fragile glass will break if struck with force. But possession of the disposition does not entail the corresponding simple (subjunctive or counterfactual) conditional. The phenomena of finks and antidotes show that an object may possess the disposition without the conditional being true. Finks and antidotes may be thought of as exceptions to the straightforward relation between disposition and conditional. The existence of these phenomena are easy to demonstrate at the macro-level. But do they exist at the fundamental level also? While fundamental finkish dispositions may be excluded fairly straightforwardly, the existence of fundamental antidotes is more open. Nonetheless I conclude that the phenomenon is likely to be less widespread than at the macro level and that fundamental antidotes may be eliminable. According to the dispositional essentialist, the laws of nature can be explained by taking natural properties to be essentially dispositional. This account can be extended to show that the existence of finks and antidotes explains ceteris paribus laws. Consequently the existence or otherwise of fundamental finks and antidotes sheds some light on the question of whether fundamental laws may also be ceteris paribus laws.